The Man-Thing! by Steve Gerber!

I know the Silver Age was the foundation for just about everything (except most notably Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor) at Marvel, but the Bronze Age was the age that brought comics into the modern era, because it explored ideas that were previously ignored or even taboo. Drugs, violence, religion, you name it, this time in comics was exactly what the industry needed. One of the creators that helped lead the way with his unique style of storytelling was Steve Gerber. He was a shot in the arm no doubt as the pages were filled with social issues galore, and along with his idiosyncratic style, humor, and tons of off-the-wall stories readers were enthralled with these books!

 

Imagine if you will, trying to write stories in which the main character cannot speak. Taking over the character Man-Thing in only its third appearance, Gerber immediately turned the direction of the book/character from a straight up horror character, to one that is centric to stories with social issues, but you still get the horror angle as well (just not the main point of the story). The issues of (Adventures Into) Fear that featured Gerber’s work did lean slightly more towards more horror than anything, but once Manny transitioned to his own title, the restraints were completely off.

Let me be frank, Gerber could write any kind of story, not just one solely focused on social issues. He actually would write an issue or two with that as the main idea (Fear #12, 16), but then turn around and write a few issues in a row of just straight up horror (Fear #13-15). He wrote superhero stories (check out his trippy Daredevil run, Marvel Two-in-One, Omega the Unknown, and Guardians of the Galaxy!), and everything in between, but what most consider his crowning achievement is Howard the Duck. I’m partial to the Man-Thing  stories though, and if you read them, I guarantee you’ll become a fan!

Check out these images that really drive home how awesome the Gerber Man-Thing is! Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Marvel Tales #50, 1973 (Originally ASM #67, 1965) “To Squash A Spider!”

After recently purchasing this issue, I checked it out and knew I had to spotlight it for everyone to see! This story features a battle between Spidey and Mysterio! We now know that his forté is illusions, but back then, it wasn’t common knowledge. The story shows a miniature version of Spidey (six inches tall), having to fight his way through a fun house, all the while Mysterio is trying to kill him! There is some back matter as well. We see Joe Robertson having some issues with his son, and Gwen and her father, Captain Stacy. Great stuff, as the real world touches are what made Marvel tops!

For those that love to denounce Stan “The Man” Lee (writer), ponder this for a moment. While it seems as though he’s given himself too much credit in the actual creation of Marvel’s Silver Age explosion, I don’t think you can take away the consistency of his scripting, and his exuberance in the real “selling” of comic books. John “Ring-a-Ding” Romita (pencils) is one of the all-time greats of the industry. His romance work, inking, covers, and of course, his work on The Amazing Spider-Man are second to none. The inks (and finishes?) are by another familiar name from the Silver/Bronze Age in Jim “Madman” Mooney. Throw in good old Artie Simek (letters), and that rounds out this awesome team of creators!

 

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Spectacular Spider-Man #85, 1983 “The Hatred of the Hobgoblin!”

I don’t have very many issues of Spidey stories from the 1980’s for some reason. Just a few scant issues, but issues that have a very good story and creative team behind them. In this story, we see the “birth” of the Hobgoblin! Roger Stern was the architect of this character, and he really turned up the drama and mystery during his run on the book. Some consider his run right up there with the all time greats, and after reading some of it, and listening to a podcast about Spidey in the 1980’s, I’d have to agree. The underworld/crime stories, and the presence of the mysterious Hobgoblin (we/Peter didn’t know who he really was for a few years!), really make this a memorable time for the old web-head! This issue also has a softer side, as Harry and Liz announce that they’re expecting their first child (little Normie)!

The story was written by the often overlooked Bill Mantlo (some plot credit to Stern?). If you look at this man’s credits, he was one of the builders that helped keep Marvel going for a decade. Between ROM, The Micronauts, and all the short runs and fill-ins he did, you’ve got to respect his place in the industry’s history. The artwork was by the team of Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney, and both of those men are also a big part of the Bronze Age (and Copper Age) of comics. With the colors by Bob Sharen and letters by Diana Albers, the team is in place. Get ready for action, and love (with The Black Cat) for Peter Parker!

 

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Thor #201, 1972 “Resurrection!”

After Jack Kirby left Marvel, I’m sure there were some that were very despondent, both within Marvel, and fans. One of the books he left, was Thor. Most would probably say that the Fantastic Four or Captain America are his crowning achievements, but for me, I think Thor is right up there with anything he ever gave us during his time at Marvel Comics. So, the stage is set, Kirby is gone, and who can even possibly try to fill his shoes? Enter John Buscema! The man’s work is well documented, and for all the greats of his time, he stands tall, right there among them. In this issue, we see Odin brought back to life with the help of Hela! We also get a treat, and see the god of war, Pluto, as he battles Thor!

As I’ve already pointed out, this issue is a good one, and basically, you have two elements driving that fact. First is the great creative team of Gerry Conway (writer), “Big” John Buscema (pencils), Jim Mooney (inks), Artie Simek (letters), Gil Kane (cover pencils), and Vince Colletta (cover inks)! The second is the awesome continuity that had been put into place by Lee and Kirby, up until this point in the character’s history. Throw those things together, and you get a great title!

 

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The Spectacular Spider-Man #50, 1981 “Dilemma!”

As most comic book readers know, the Amazing Spider-Man was the flagship title, and almost always had the best stories. Every once in a while though, the sister title, Spectacular Spider-Man would churn out something cool. It had its share of solid creators working on it, and usually dealt with something a little more off-beat. This particular issue shows Spidey, as he’s wrapping up capturing the villain from the previous issue (the Smuggler), but his night gets a little crazier than he thought it would. After finally packing up the costume for one night, Parker decides to call Debra Whitman and ask her to accompany him to meet Aunt May’s new beau, Nathan Lubensky for dinner the following day. We see that Debra has some pretty deep feelings for Peter, but we know his mind is elsewhere. The story has some nice little moments, and is definitely one that you should seek out!

Anyone that lost track of Spidey after the tumultuous Silver Age is really missing out on some great stories. Everyone knows of the excellence of Gerry Conway, but a couple of other scribes did the old web-head justice as well, and one of them is certainly Roger Stern. He wrote this story along with a few others in this title, and later took over the main title as well, and really made strides in the life of Peter Parker and his surrounding cast (Mary Jane especially). The art team is a great one too, and we have “Jubilant” John Romita Jr. (pencils), and Jim “Madman” Mooney to thank for that. The colors were provided by Ben Sean, the letters by Jim Novak. Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a cover by “Lanky” Frank Miller and Joe “The Rube” Rubinstein!

 

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Omega the Unknown #4, 1976 “Cats and no Dogs!”

On my last adventure to the comic shop, I had several issues in mind that I was going to grab. The only problem was that those issues were nowhere to be found. I did the only thing any red-blooded comic book collector would do…I bought some other great comics from my favorite age, the Bronze Age! It’s no secret that I love the writing of Steve Gerber, so when I saw the opportunity to grab some issues of Omega the Unknown, I knew I had to do it! In this issue, #4, (of short title run of ten issues) we see the enigmatic hero faces off against one of the most obscure, and wild villains of all time, a man named  El Gato! This wild man can control felines, and when you really tick him off, he’ll summon a multitude of them to viciously attack his enemies!

Gerber (along with Skrenes), has always been known for writing well, but especially when the content is even more insane than the last. He portrays Omega the Unknown sort of like how Brian Bendis portrayed The Sentry. Very doe-eyed, and simple, but powerful as well. The flip side to the story is that we also get to focus on the boy named James-Michael Starling. This odd youth has two young lady friends, but doesn’t seem to realize what’s going on half of the time. The artwork by Jim Mooney (pencils) and Pablo Marcos (inks) is very good, and will definitely turn some heads. Colors by Phil Rachelson, with letters by Gaspar, Karen Mantlo, and Ray Holloway. The cover is by Howard Chaykin and Frank Giacoia!

 

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Marvel Tales #54, 1974 “The Web Closes!”

With all due respect to Steve Ditko, I enjoy the Romita era of Spider-Man better. Not only for the artistic difference (even though this issue is penciled by someone else), but also for the stories. Yes, the rogues gallery Ditko created can never be outdone, but what was done with them after his departure was exceptional. What writers like Gerry Conway, and Len Wein did with them really cemented them in the Spider-Man mythos. In this story (originally presented in Amazing Spider-Man #73, 1965), Spidey and Captain Stacy are trying to figure out where the Shocker has hidden the tablet he stole in the previous arc. There’s only one problem, the Maggia also want to know where it is, and they’ve hired some new muscle to find it – Man-Mountain Marko!

This issue in particular was penciled by none other than “Big” John Buscema (over John “Ring-a-Ding”Romita layouts). Buscema didn’t do many pages of the wall-crawler, but when he did, it was incredible as his work always was back in the day. Inking is marvel perennial favorite, Jim “Madman” Mooney! This guy can ink, pencil, do interiors, covers, you name it! And all with a consistency and professionalism like the others in the Marvel bullpen! Let us not forget the letters by “Sleepy” Sam Rosen and story by “Smilin'” Stan Lee! One look at this cover (by Romita), and you know you’re back in the heyday of Marvel Comics!

 

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The Defenders #34, 1976. “He’s Back! Nebulon, The Celestial Man”

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Being a huge fan of Dr. Strange, this title is obviously on my radar. The issues written by the eccentric Steve Gerber, were crazy, but so good. In this particular issue, a powerful enemy, Nebulon, has returned, and it’s up to the Doc, Hulk, and Valkyrie to take him down! Written by Steve Gerber, art by Sal Buscema & Jim Mooney, and letters by Irv Watanabe, and colors by Irene Vartanoff! And what an awesome cover by Rich Buckler & Dan Adkins! Enjoy!

The Superman Family #166, 1974. “The Murdering Arm of Metropolis”

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Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of Superman in the comics. I do love the first two Donner movies, and also the animated series from the 90’s, but the comics just always fell flat for me. Not that I’ve read a ton or anything, but it just doesn’t resonate with me personally. That being said, check out this awesome cover by the late, great, Nick Cardy! Interior work from Jim Mooney, John Forte, and Curt Swan (among others)! Enjoy!